Talking Ants and Birds in the Quran
I understand that Quran is not a book of science however Quran has indirectly touched upon few topics that either compliment or apparently challenge our to-date scientific knowledge.
I know that science is ever changing but there are few things that we know are true with almost certainty. For example we know that ants have marvelous communication skills at group level, however we are certain that they cannot recognize a human by name. Similarly a bird (hoopooe) would not be able to recognize a city by name.
The translations of Quran, that I have read, presented few verses where an ant is recognizing a person by name and a bird is recognizing a city by name. Things like these have been criticized a lot by those who wish to attack the Book. Honestly I don’t even know how to look at these things as a believer other than simply accepting them on their face value as suggested by 2:26.
I would like to see your perspective on this.
There are three types of information in the Quran: one that I can understand and analyse, another that is beyond my or other human’s reach of full appreciation, and still another about which I don’t know much but others know more about it than me.
While the first one is the focus of my attention when I read the Quran, and I appreciate the last one with the help of others, it is the second category of information on which I don’t really apply my mind because I know I can’t get anything more about it beyond what has been mentioned. Of course, I need to be conscious of the fact that I am not fooling myself by incorrectly bracketing an information in the second category. Most part of such information belongs to the category of allegorical verses (mutashabihat), about which the Quran has clarified that “No one can know the reality if it except Allah and those steeped in knowledge say: ‘All of it is from Allah'”. (3:7)
However, I know that I can be wrong in my understanding that certain verses belong to the second category even though they in reality may be belonging to the third one. When the first category forms a substantial part of the Quran and it also satisfies me, the second and third categories would worry me only if I get a feeling that there was something seriously wrong in some of them. I would invite discussion with others on the first category and keep my mind open about the third one. Of course, I would also keep thinking if a certain verse belonged to the second or the third category.
Having said that, I feel that the mention of the talking ant and bird belongs to the second category of verses: We can never know what the real understanding about them is. However, I am willing to accept the possibility that these mentions could belong to the third category.
The mention of such things doesn’t worry me at the moment because I know that there were many realities which man hasn’t discovered as yet. The fact that ants and birds speak a language which some humans can understand is something humans can discover later if they haven’t done so as yet. I also know that later Scientists are fully capable of negating what earlier ones had claimed. The world of human knowledge keeps evolving. The word of God remains the same: precise and clear.